U.S. Senator Mark Begich today said he is pleased by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) response to his demands to eliminate unnecessary medical requirements for certain low-risk recreational pilots.
In a letter sent last week Begich demanded the FAA stop dragging their feet and respond to a two-year old petition by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) and Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) to reduce an unnecessary bureaucratic requirement. The petition proposed allowing certain types of recreational flying without the currently-required third-class medical certificate issued by an FAA-approved physician. The FAA responded today by beginning a rulemaking process to allow certain pilots to use their driver's license to demonstrate medical readiness to fly.
"Alaskan pilots agree that for certain types of flying, having a FAA third-class medical certificate doesn't improve safety, and is really just an unnecessary piece of red tape," said Begich. "One of the reasons I founded the Senate General Aviation Caucus was to help ensure Federal agencies responded to common-sense ideas like this from the general aviation community. I encourage the agency to work through this process quickly and consider offering relief to some pilots earlier if it can be done safely."
Recent studies have shown that under a similar set of FAA rules for "Light Sport Aircraft," where a driver's license is enough to show a baseline of health, there have been no accidents attributed to pilot medical problems. The AOPA petition asks that this approach to medical certification of pilots be expanded to other types of low-risk, non-commercial flying. Eliminating the need for periodic renewal of an FAA medical certificate is estimated to save affected pilots $241 million and the FAA $11 million over 10 years.
Senator Begich founded the bipartisan Senate General Aviation Caucus in 2009. The 41 Senators who are members of the caucus advocate for the general aviation sector, which with $150 billion in annual economic activity, supports 1.3 million jobs nation-wide.